You are currently viewing Our 25 Favorite Features From the Past 25 Years –

Our 25 Favorite Features From the Past 25 Years –

The Article is from Wired, the article rights & obligation belongs to Wired. Enjoy reading!


In the manifesto for WIRED that founding editor Louis Rossetto published in the first issue of the magazine (we didn’t have a website yet), he issued a simple edict to his writers: “Amaze us.”

Twenty-five years later, it is fun—to say the least—to look back at all the ways that WIRED writers have done that. To mark our anniversary, we’ve surveyed the archive and chosen 25 of our favorite longform” target=”_blank”>articles going back to the very beginning. Each one is a standout piece of journalism, but in total they create a mini-mosaic of the WIRED world: the people, the ideas, the drama, the incredible change that is still washing over us like, in Rossetto’s memorable phrase, a Bengali typhoon.

Some of the pieces tell rip-roaring stories that only could have happened in the midst of a digital revolution. Consider Joshuah Bearman’s epic account of the rise and fall of the online drug market Silk Road and its tragic mastermind Ross Ulbricht. Or Charles Graeber’s high-wire portrait of the outlaw download king who goes by the name Kim Dotcom. We introduced the world to intriguing new ideas—crowdsourcing, the long tail—that soon became conventional wisdom. And we unspooled the stories of revolutionaries and dreamers who spanned the globe (legendary author Neal Stephenson did that) and journeyed to Silicon Valley in search of glory and riches (as writer Po Bronson showed way back in 1999, it doesn’t always go as planned).

“In the age of information overload,” Rossetto wrote in that 1993 manifesto, “the ultimate luxury is meaning and context.” Here are 25 stories. Luxuriate.

1. Crypto Rebels by Steven Levy, May/June 1993

“The people in this room hope for a world where an individual’s informational footprints—everything from an opinion on abortion to the medical record of an actual abortion—can be traced only if the individual involved chooses to reveal them; a world where coherent messages shoot around the globe by network and microwave, but intruders and feds trying to pluck them out of the vapor find only gibberish; a world where the tools of prying are transformed into the instruments of privacy.”

2. Disneyland With the Death Penalty by William Gibson, Sept/Oct 1993

“Singapore, meanwhile, has dealt with its own sex industry in two ways: by turning its traditional red-light district into a themed attraction in its own right, and by moving its massage parlors into the Beverly Centers. Bugis Street, once famous for its transvestite prostitutes—the sort of place where one could have imagined meeting Noel Coward, ripped on opium, cocaine, and the local tailoring, just off in his rickshaw for a night of high buggery—had, when it proved difficult to suppress, a subway station dropped on top of it. ‘Don’t worry,’ the government said, ‘we’ll put it all back, just the way it was, as soon as we have the subway in.’ Needless to say, the restored Bugis Street has all the sexual potential of ‘Frontierland,’ and the transvestites are represented primarily by a number of murals.”

3. Web Dreams by Josh Quittner, November 1996

“Now that’s an uncomfortable concept to many people in the journalism business. Money? Writers and reporters don’t make money, they make truth. That’s their line of business: figuring out what’s true and then telling other people. Who cares if anyone wants to hear it? Money is the devil, the Great Seducer that leads you away from hard facts and points you toward sweeps weeks and infotainment.”

4. Mother Earth Motherboard by Neal Stephenson, December 1996

“Wires warp cyberspace in the same way wormholes warp physical space: the two points at opposite ends of a wire are, for informational purposes, the same point, even if they are on opposite sides of the planet. The cyberspace-warping power of wires, therefore, changes the geometry of the world of commerce and politics and ideas that we live in.”

5. The Epic Saga of The Well by Katie Hafner, May 1997

“History has already decreed The Well to be synonymous with online communication in its best, worst, and, above all, most vital forms. Though always small in overall numbers, its influence and recognition far outweighed any significance that could be measured by membership or revenues. The Well created a paradox: scruffy, undercapitalized, and armed with a huge amount of clout. It would become a harbinger of both the excitement and the concerns that would arise on the Net over the uses of electronic networks and virtual dialogs, free speech, privacy, and anonymity.”

6. Gen Equity by Po Bronson, July 1999

“Working has become nothing less than a sport. Here in superachieverland, people are motivated by the thrill of the competition and the danger of losing, and every year the rules evolve to make it all happen quicker, on higher margins, to reach more amazing sums.

It is a mad, fertile time.”

7. Why the Future Doesn’t Need Us by Bill Joy, April 2000

“Whether we are to succeed or fail, to survive or fall victim to these technologies, is not yet decided.”

8. The Truth, the Whole Truth, and Nothing But the Truth by John Heilemann, November 2000

“He created a company that reflected his image and fostered a culture that fed his sense of omnipotence. He mastered a business that rewarded farsightedness, but failed to develop his peripheral vision. In his arrogance he lost whatever perspective he once had, and in his monomania he was unwise to the ways of the world. He began his journey as an aspiring god, an illusion his universe nurtured and sustained. When his reckoning came, it was shocking and final—and it seemed somehow ordained by the ages.”

9. Steaming Video by Charles Platt, November 2000

“Corrin’s only remaining hang-up is the prospect of being seen masturbating. ‘No one else on the planet masturbates in the exact way I do,’ she says. ‘It must be really weird.’ For a moment she looks worried; then her bouncy positivity returns. ‘If I go public with it,’ she says, ‘maybe other women will suggest alternatives.'”

10. The Geek Syndrome by Steve Silberman, December 2001
“Autism gets to fundamental issues of how we view talents and disabilities. The flip side of dyslexia is enhanced abilities in math and architecture. There may be an aspect of this going on with autism and assortative mating in places like Silicon Valley. In the parents, who carry a few of the genes, they’re a good thing. In the kids, who carry too many, it’s very bad.”

11. The Long Tail by Chris Anderson, October 2004

“When you think about it, most successful businesses on the Internet are about aggregating the Long Tail in one way or another.”

12. La Vida Robot: How 4 Mexican Immigrant Kids and Their Cheap Robot Beat MIT by Joshua Davis, April 2005

“They live in sheds and rooms without electricity. But over three days last summer, these kids from the desert proved they are among the smartest young underwater engineers in the country.”

13. The Rise of Crowdsourcing by Jeff Howe, June 2006

“The labor isn’t always free, but it costs a lot less than paying traditional employees. It’s not outsourcing; it’s crowdsourcing.”

14. The Pedal to the Metal, Totally Illegal, Cross Continental Sprint for Glory by Charles Graeber, October 2007

“The radar is crazy with bleep! and blatt!, the spreadsheets litter the cockpit like dirty floor mats, but Roy hits it anyway. He doesn’t need charts anymore. He is the chart, and Excel and Google Earth and Garmin MapSource and something more, too, a guy with something to prove.”

15. The Race to Save the Cougar Ace by Joshua Davis, February 2008
“Reed serves as the navigator through the intricacies of the vessel’s holds—he has spent the past 24 hours memorizing the Cougar Ace’s complex design. But it’s one thing to picture the orderly lines of a blueprint, quite another to traverse the dark confines of a capsized ship. As a result, Reed is not always sure where they are, and the darkness fills with a steady stream of Mayani’s elaborate Spanish curses. Nobody wants to get lost inside this thing.”

16. Vanish by Evan Ratliff, November 2009

“What can investigators glean from all the digital fingerprints we leave behind? You can be anybody you want online, sure, but can you reinvent yourself in real life?”

17. The Fury by Amy Wallace, February 2011

“When she heard the first deafening boom, Debra Moriarity thought the walls were caving in. “What’s falling?” she wondered as she looked up from the notes she’d been taking. She could hardly make sense of what she saw: Bishop was firing a pistol at her fellow scientists. For the better part of an hour, Bishop had been sitting at the end of a long conference table, listening to a dozen people discuss the biology department’s budget and other matters. Now standing near the room’s only door, she was transformed. Aiming at one colleague’s head after another, she pulled the trigger again and again. Boom. Boom.”

18. Mega: Inside the Mansion—and Mind—of the Internet’s Most Wanted Man by Charles Graeber, October 2012

“The DOJ maintains that the legitimate storage business was only a front, like a Mafia pork store; the real money was made out back, where Megaupload was a mega-swapmeet for some $500 million worth of pirated material, including movies, TV shows, music, books, videogames, and software. Kim, they contend, was the Jabba the Hutt-like presence running this grand bazaar of copyright criminality with impunity from his Kiwi Tatooine, protected by laser break beams and guards and guns, CCTV and infrared and even escape pods—including a helicopter and high-performance sports cars. The FBI also believed Kim possessed a special portable device that would wipe his servers all across the globe, destroying the evidence. They called this his doomsday button.”

19. John McAfee’s Last Stand by Joshua Davis, December 2012

“Deep in the compound, McAfee burst out of a thatched-roof bungalow that stood on stilts 20 feet off the ground. He was naked and held a revolver. Things had changed since his days as a high-flying software tycoon. By 2009 he had sold almost everything he owned—estates in Hawaii, Colorado, New Mexico, and Texas as well as his 10-passenger plane—and moved into the jungle. He announced that he was searching for natural antibiotics in the rain forest and constructed a mysterious laboratory on his property. Now his jungle stronghold was under attack. The commandos were converging on him. There were 31 of them; he was outgunned and outmanned.”

20. The Untold Story of Silk Road by Joshuah Bearman,
April 2015 and May 2015

“Ross Ulbricht had come to see taxation and government as a form of coercion, enforced by the state’s monopoly on violence. His thinking was heavily influenced by Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises, a totem of the modern American libertarian orthodoxy. According to von Mises, a citizen must have economic freedom to be politically or morally free. And Ross wanted to be free.”

21. No Exit: One Startup’s Struggle to Survive Silicon Valley’s Gold Rush by Gideon Lewis-Kraus, April 2014

“He slept without a blanket and with three different devices charging beside him on his bed, lined up like kittens sleeping at the teat. His girlfriend always seemed available for videochat sex. He was really considerate about the whole thing. He usually waited until he thought I was sleeping, and even then he used headphones. All I could really hear on his end was his muffled instructions, along with profuse apologies that he couldn’t be any louder. It occurred to me that his girlfriend was quite a good sport, since in India it was midmorning. I could tell he really missed her.”

22. Edward Snowden, the Untold Story by James Bamford, August 2014

“He says that he actually intended the government to have a good idea about what exactly he stole. Before he made off with the documents, he tried to leave a trail of digital bread crumbs so investigators could determine which documents he copied and took and which he just ‘touched.’ That way, he hoped, the agency would see that his motive was whistle-blowing and not spying for a foreign government. It would also give the government time to prepare for leaks in the future, allowing it to change code words, revise operational plans, and take other steps to mitigate damage. But he believes the NSA’s audit missed those clues and simply reported the total number of documents he touched—1.7 million. (Snowden says he actually took far fewer.) ‘I figured they would have a hard time,’ he says. ‘I didn’t figure they would be completely incapable.'”

23. What 800 Nerds on a Cruise Ship Taught Me About Life by Adam Rogers, December 2014

“As they work the Sea Monkeys into a pulsing frenzy (and as I drink more), a pattern emerges on the dance floor. Look past the loony variability—the couple doing the polka to “Ring of Fire,” the woman dancing with an illuminated Hula Hoop, the kilts and utility pouches—and you see the congruity: This is the most unabashed display of nerdness I’ve seen outside MIT. It is a skyscraper-sized boat full of people who were once sequestered and who are now calling the shots for modern popular culture. It feels like a victory party.”

24. One Man’s Desperate Quest to Cure His Son’s Epilepsy—With Weed by Fred Vogelstein, July 2015

“As a little kid, Sam couldn’t even cry without being interrupted: He’d skin a knee, cry for 15 seconds, have a 15-second seizure, and then continue crying. Once, after watching a movie with me, he complained about the DVD being scratched. It wasn’t. It just seemed that way because he’d had so many seizures.”

25. Love in the Time of Robots by Alex Mar, October 2017

“Twice he has witnessed others have the opportunity, however confusing, to encounter their robot self, and he covets that experience.”

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.